WANDERERS’ so-called impossible dream is looking more attainable with each passing week.

It was to the crooned strains of Andy Williams that Bolton fans filed out into the night on Saturday, another three points chipped away from their considerable debt.

To say victory was never in doubt would be a lie. It has been a fair while since anyone sat comfortably in their seat at the UniBol during the final stages of a game. But having put so much into 90 minutes it would have felt harsh for Keith Hill’s side to walk off the pitch with anything other than victory, much as his opposite number Joey Barton may beg to differ.

Front men Chris O’Grady and Daryl Murphy did the damage with first-half goals but this will go down as a triumph for the workhorses – captain Jason Lowe in particular – who dug in to protect the result in a largely one-sided second period.

Bolton prop up the table on minus two, still seven points from their nearest rival in the table and a massive 15 from safety. But it is to the eternal credit of Hill, his assistant David Flitcroft and the melange of playing talent they assembled just eight weeks ago that we are all pondering: ‘What if?’ Of course, it would be a tremendous help if Wanderers knew exactly what they are up against. The EFL’s dilly-dallying on potential punishment for pre-Hill misdemeanours leaving a nagging doubt in the back of the mind during all this positivity.

There is no question, however, that the rest of League One is now waking up to the fact that Bolton are now a different team to the one which was allowed by the authorities to stumble into the campaign in administration with barely a handful of senior players.

It is as if the whole club has woken up from a nightmare. And provided the EFL are not hovering over the bed with a gas mask and anaesthesia, there is still plenty of time to play catch-up and complete a great escape that would redefine the term.

Provided injuries do not bite too deeply into this squad there is a genuine feeling that anything is possible. Repeated chants of the Great Escape followed each goal, block and saving challenge on Saturday afternoon, proving the feeling is not just confined to the dressing room.

Hill was able to bring back Thibaud Verlinden and Jake Wright into his starting line-up, the latter after just one day of training. James Weir and the unfortunate Ali Crawford made way.

After some early jousting it was Wanderers who seized the initiative. O’Grady opened the scoring on 28 minutes after their high pressing forced Harry Souttar into a dreadful backpass towards Cairns, and the striker, playing slightly behind Daryl Murphy on the day, was able to bundle the ball into the back of the net for his third in two games.

Just five minutes later, it was two. Daryl Murphy was set in on goal by a fine pass from Joe Dodoo, finishing clinically after getting around flailing keeper Carins.

Fleetwood were wasteful on the day. Paddy Madden has 10 league goals to his name this season but should have scored with a first-half header, likewise the ever-dangerous Lewie Coyle managed to skew a chipped effort wide after getting through on Remi Matthews.

Wanderers might have had a third, too. Substitute Dennis Politic raced through only to see his shot nudged wide of goal by keeper Cairns, who also made a fine reaction stop from O’Grady moments later.

Things became a little chaotic in the last half and hour, however, as referee Scott Oldham and his assistants made some truly terrible calls in both directions. Somehow, the Poulton-based official managed to keep the home crowd in permanent fervour and ensure Joey Barton and Andy Mangan spent 90 per cent of the second half berating fourth official Gary Hilton.

Hill would probably have liked a measure more control in the final stages. He had brought on Politic for the tiring Verlinden in an effort to stretch the game but then hooked the winger in favour of Sonny Graham’s industry for the final few moments. As disappointed as Politic looked as he trudged around the touchline in front of the Fleetwood fans, the decision looked 100 per cent tactical and he should not lose heart.

Fleetwood continued to huff and puff yet Wanderers dug deep. Lowe’s omnipresence continued to the 95th minute and his rehabilitation in the eyes of the supporters continues apace. Young centre-back Yoan Zouma showed an impressive level of maturity considering his own game had been so widely analysed in the build-up and Remi Matthews came up with the goods in the final minutes – ending up with a black eye and stitches for his troubles.

A mention must also go to Luke Murphy, a player who has not always seemed a natural fit in Bolton’s side, but whose recent displays suggest he is starting to find his rhythm in a three-man midfield.

A few weeks ago, Fleetwood’s late pressure would probably have resulted in an equaliser. This was a much savvier display, however, and that was summed up when the Whites briefly broke three-on-one in the 93rd minute – Daryl Murphy heading calmly to the corner to burn out seconds rather than risk his team being broken on themselves.

There was a mass sigh of relief as Matthews clutched a late header from McAleny on his own line, prompting referee Oldham to blow his final whistle and end the game, one of the few acts he got entirely correct on the day.

Wanderers had not won three consecutive games since the promotion season in 2016/17 when they strung five together, starting with a 4-2 triumph at Fleetwood. This felt well-earned, and perhaps more-so given the gamesmanship shown by Barton and Co when Phil Parkinson attempted to sign Ched Evans back in January. What goes around, and all that… In fairness to Barton, he acknowledged Bolton’s hard work in a thoroughly reasoned post-match assessment and thankfully left his Twitter account inactive on Saturday night.

Old scores aside, it seems there is plenty to look forward to in a season that could so easily have been written off as a bad job.

Next weekend sees the visit of Plymouth in the FA Cup, followed by meetings with MK Dons, Accrington Stanley and AFC Wimbledon. Expectation levels will inevitably rise and it will be an interesting test of Hill’s team if they begin to go into games as favourites, expected to play on the front foot.

There remains a gargantuan task on Wanderers’ hands to claw in those sides above them in the table and even then, there is that spectre of EFL intervention. But this team looks willing to fight, to use the velvety words of Mr Williams: “No matter how hopeless, no matter how far”.